Should reclining seats be banned from flights?

A survey has found that 91 per cent of passengers want seat reclining banned from flights.
A survey has found that 91 per cent of passengers want seat reclining banned from flights. Photo: Getty Images

An expert in etiquette has given airline passengers a blunt warning. "Don't recline your seat into a passenger behind you on a flight that is less than three hours."

The lesson in behaviour at 35,000 feet comes from Anna Musson, founder of the Sydney-based Good Manners Company.

"There's nothing so annoying as a passenger who puts their seat back just after takeoff," she says. "It happened to me on a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne last weekend and I thought 'what a selfish man'. It makes you want to knock their seat a few times to let them know you are inconvenienced."

A Skyscanner survey released this week has revealed that 91 per cent of passengers say that seat reclining should be banned, or at least allowed only during set times, on short-haul flights.

The survey of 1000 travellers also found that 43 per cent think there should be set times to put your seat back on long-haul flights.

It revealed that 60 per cent of flight attendants have been involved or witnessed heated arguments over the issue.

In one of the most extreme incidents of air rage caused by a passenger reclining his seat, a fist fight broke out on a United Airlines flight from Washington to Ghana a few years ago.

The pilot turned back to the US because of the disturbance and had to dump $US50,000 of fuel. Two Air Force F-16 fighter jets were also scrambled to escort the plane back to the airport.

Ms Musson says: "Even if it is a flight of more than three hours you should never put your seat back straight away. You should wait until after the meal service. To try to eat a meal when someone has put their seat back is really uncomfortable. The rule of thumb is to consider your neighbours. "You can sit up straight in your set for three hours but after that people start to wane and may want to sleep. I think three hours is the magic number. But if there is no one behind you, go for it."

A psychologist quoted by Skyscanner says there are two general personality types when travelling.

"There's the 'altruistic soul', who is considerate of others, and the 'selfish ego', who will look to increase their own comfort at the expense of others," says Dr Becky Spelman.

The survey found an alarming number of selfish egos, with 70 per cent of people admitting they would recline their seat into a pregnant woman, and 80 per cent would not care if the person behind was elderly or frail.

Women from 18-24 are the most likely to be altruistic souls while men over 35 are most likely to be selfish egos.

Cathay Pacific trialled economy-class seats a few years ago that had hard-shell backs so they did not recline into the passenger behind. The seats would tilt back by sliding forward, but they were scrapped after passenger complaints about comfort.

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